LIFE

'A Wild Ride': How A Team Of Photographers Captured Lake Eyre From The Air

And how one lens ended up in its centre.

16/01/2017 12:11 PM AEDT | Updated 17/01/2017 8:22 AM AEDT

When five photographers set off to take aerial photographs of one of Australia's most iconic and mysterious landscapes, mother nature set them back in their tracks.

"It started pouring down with rain so heavily that all the roads had been shut down. We couldn't reach the tiny town where we were meant to be based for the trip," photographer Paul Hoelen told The Huffington Post Australia.

Supplied (Paul Hoelen)
The beginning.

"We spent a night in the desert. In the end, we ended up ditching our 4WDs and chartering a plane to get there."

They thought the trip was over before it had even started.

But a rather obtrusive setback also became their greatest gift.

"That rain completely transformed the landscape. For a landscape so dry, one drop of water can lead to an explosion of life. Algae started blooming, the water started filling up areas of the lake and birds flew in from all angles,'" Hoelen said.

"The land was entirely re-sculpted and the rain gave us a colour palette beyond what we could ever have imagined."

Supplied (Paul Hoelen)

Hoelen is part of a team of landscape photographers known as The Light Collective.

All progressive visual artists in their own right, they have joined forces to take on large-scale expeditions that unpack the Australian landscape.

It's called The 'RGB Project'.

It's arid, raw, immense and remote. And it's beautiful.

"RGB is actually the file structure that we use to take photographs. It's our colour palette. It's also a way of breaking down the Australian landscape," Hoelen said. "We've got red -- the beating desert centre, green -- the periphery around that, and blue being our vast coastline."

At the heart of Australia's red centre, Kati Thanda - Lake Eyre was their first trip.

Supplied (Adam Williams)

"It was a place none of us had been to, so it was quite alluring to all of us," Hoelen said. "It's also an iconic place and very representative of our country's desert.

"It's arid, raw, immense and remote. And it's beautiful."

Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre is the official name of Lake Eyre, Australia's largest salt lake and the country's lowest natural point, after it was returned to the Arabana people in 2013.

The abstract photos capture its extraordinary colours and meandering flows, depicting a landscape most of us can only dream of seeing in real life.

And they were all taken from the air. How so, may you ask? Well, it wasn't exactly a walk in the park.

It's a delicate dance and one that is certainly not for the faint-hearted!

Supplied (Paul Hoelen)
A long way down.

"We fly in planes where you can take the doors off and the windows open. A lot of planes aren't licensed to do that," Hoelen explains.

"To get the aerial shots that we wanted, we literally needed to shoot straight down. You need to have a camera out of the plane. Once this happens, you're literally entering a wind stream of 200 kilometres per hour."

The trajectory of the plane changes and you're no longer flying in a straight line...

Add to this the small fact that the plane is taking 'banked turns' to allow shots.

"Once we found an area that we were drawn to, we would ask the pilot to bank around it. Then the trajectory of the plane changes and you're no longer flying in a straight line," Hoelen said.

"As you can imagine, it's difficult to keep the camera steady."

Supplied (Ignacio Palacio)
A delicate dance not for the faint-hearted.

And it is these tricky conditions that left an expensive camera lens in the middle of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre.

"For one of us, the wind force was so strong it ripped the camera out of his hand and blew off one of his lenses!"

The 10-day trip involved an intricately researched flight plan, a capable pilot and a strong dose of adrenaline.

"It's a delicate dance and once that is certainly not for the faint-hearted!" Hoelen said.

"But it's a wild ride. When you're up there and you have a palette like this dancing around you, it's all worth it."

Supplied (Ignacio Palacios)

The exhibition and book, named simply 'Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre' has returned to Sydney after launching in November 2016.

"We knew there was something magical about this place. The response has been amazing and it has carved an array of interpretations," Hoelen said.

It is the first collection in a series that he hopes will next take the collective to the Great Barrier Reef.

"This is our blue. The challenge for us is to find it and interpret in a way that is unique for us. We're not just going out to document or record," Hoelen said.

"We want people to slow down and think about what they looking at."

Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre has launched its second exhibition this January at the Black Eye Gallery in Darlinghurst, Sydney.

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